Round 151

Hi Eric, I have two questions about designing a maximum strength training—specifically intensity hangboarding finger training: How many rest days are best after a max strength workout, and what is the best thing to train/do on the day after the max strength workout? I’m always wondering how you might structure the microcycle and mesocycle for maximum effectiveness? FYI, I’m age 46, been climbing 25 years, and climb 5.13a on a good day…and hoping to push higher! Climbed since 1992 but trained systematically for 12 months, level: ~13a (on a good day). I am taking a year off for training/climbing so I have relatively flexible schedule where my time is filled with training and taking care of two kids.

Hi Marek, Regarding hangboard training—if you are doing several sets of weighted, near-maximal “strength” sets, then it indeed takes 48-72 hours for the nervous system to recover (perhaps longer if someone goes overboard on the sets). However, people beginning with lighter weights and only, say, two sets may benefit from doing 3 hangboard sessions per week. The nervous system takes a big hit from these weighted hangs, so the next day should be either rest (or antagonist/stabilizer training) or low/moderate-intensity aerobic climbing (ARC) with discipline not to push it.

As for a microcycle and mesocycle structure, I’ve recently posted some workout templates (Excel) on my site—please go in and download the Advanced program. You might find this helpful in answering your questions on program structure. Of course, you’ll want to modify these templates and “make them your own”. At age 46, you have many years of training and hard climbing ahead…and I trust you’ll find the path to the higher grades. I’m happy to have helped you a bit along the way! Please keep me posted.
Hi Eric, What’s the difference between a 4X4 protocol versus a Tabata protocol? In my opinon (and my feeling while training) is that tabata is more intense. But which one is best when training for strength-endurance /power-endurance? — Marc

Marc, A true Tabata is 20”/10” (work/rest) at max intensity for a total of 8 intervals—it’s a brutal running workout (as it was originally designed)…and it’s hard to apply strictly to climbing. The 10 second rest intervals allow for very little recovery, so the exercise intensity naturally drops off quickly with each successive interval.

4x4s on a bouldering wall should be more like 30”/30” (climb/rest) interval. This allows for more recovery and, therefore, successive intervals can remain very high intensity. Done as I detail in my book (4 ascents of 4 boulders with a 4 or 5 minute rest in between each boulder), I believe it’s superior for climbers….as it trains both the lactic energy system repeatedly, but also trains the circulatory system (to flush lactate) and the aerobic system (aerobic power) to resynthesis CP quickly during the 30” rest intervals. It’s a win-win training protocol!

Hi Eric, Can you please explain what the acronym HIT stands for in the lexicon of training for climbing? Is it the same as high intensity training used by athletes in some other sports? –Rich (UK)

Hi Rich, Yes, in the general exercise literature “HIT” is High Intensity Training. But as I use it in my climbing books and training articles HIT is an acronym for Hypergravity Isolation Training—a very climbing-specific method of training the finger flexors, pulling muscles, and core. Follow this link to learn more about HIT workouts and the NICROS HIT System.

Eric, Recently I was bouldering in the gym and, while heel hooking, I heard a loud snap come from my knee. There is not much pain, but the twisting and pulling motions of climbing are now quite uncomfortable. I’ve decided to relegate myself to hangboarding for a while. How many days a week can I do hangboarding and/or campus training? This is a unique opportunity for me to build my grip strength and power. I am quite heavy 195 lbs about. So while I can perform powerful dynamic movements, I tend to pump out fast. (FYI, I cannot lock off on one arm and can only do about 10 chin ups.) Was hoping you might have some good ideas. Thanks! — Jase

Hello Jase, Sorry to hear about your knee. If it doesn’t improve in 3 or 4 weeks, please see a doctor. Yes, you can use this time to hangboard—way to turn lemons into lemonade! If you are doing no climbing at all, then you can do 3 sessions per week. However, if you are still doing a little climbing, then limit to two sessions per week. Do you fingerboard and campus training on the same day, so that you have plenty of rest days each week.

Longer term–when your knee is better–I believe you can benefit by doing some running (or other aerobic activity) to reduce body mass a bit. Ultimate climbing harder requires a higher finger strength-to-body mass ratio, and so you can do best by improving the ratio both ways. Hope this helps!